Miranda Warnings

Miranda Warnings in Chicago | Know your Legal Rights

Speak with a Chicago Criminal Lawyer About Your Miranda Warnings while in Custody

Police Station SignCriminal defense lawyers will tell you that it is a very common occurrence for a client to come into the office with a case (whether it is a felony, misdemeanor, or even a petty offense) and to tell the lawyer that they should be able to make the case "go away" because "the police didn’t read me my rights." After all, we have all watched thousands of cases on television shows dismissed for just such a failure. If only it were so simple.

While there are some possible consequences to the prosecution’s case when police fail to follow the requirements regarding custodial interrogations as stated in the landmark Supreme Court case of Miranda vs. Arizona, such a failure on the part of the police does not always lead to dismissal of the criminal charges. In the actual Miranda case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prior to any custodial interrogation, the police shall inform the suspect of their Constitutional Rights. The Court directed that, at a minimum, you have to be told that:

  1. You have the right to remain silent;
  2. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law;
  3. You have the right to have an attorney present with you during questioning;
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, that one will be provided for you by the court; and
  5. You can stop the questioning at any time by asserting the above rights.

What are they not required to tell you? That "anything you say" includes written statements, verbal statements, gestures and facial expressions. They are also not required to be truthful with you during the questioning process, and may even lie in order to induce you into giving them a confession.

Miranda Warnings Are Required Before Questioning

When the Supreme Court created the Miranda warnings, their intent was to give a suspect notice of their rights so that if they chose to speak to the authorities they would do so knowingly, without threats or coercion. It was recognized that interrogations conducted in a custodial environment often overcame a person’s will to remain silent, and the Miranda Warnings, as they came to be known, were fashioned so that a witness could freely and voluntarily choose to give a statement. Since the decision originally came down, thousands of cases have turned on whether the warnings were sufficient to advise the subject of their rights, whether the suspect was capable of understanding them, and whether there was a voluntary, knowing waiver. Other cases involving Miranda warnings have hinged on determining whether or not at the time of the questioning, the suspect was under arrest or in custody such that the warnings were required prior to interrogation.

Are You Under Arrest?

So, what does it mean to be "under arrest" or "in custody?" To put it plainly, this happens when, under one’s individual circumstances, a reasonable person would not feel that they were free to leave. This means that an officer does not have to say the actual words, "you are under arrest;" or place you in handcuffs; rather, all you need is the reasonable belief that your freedom of movement has been restricted, and that you are subject to direction from the officer. In that moment, you are vulnerable, and it is easy to forget that you have the rights mentioned above, which is something that the police are counting upon when they then proceed to question you. Of course, they have not "officially" arrested you, so they will try to make you feel like you are there with them voluntarily. You may not even notice their subtle shift from mere questioning to accusatory interrogation.

If this is all it takes to be considered in custody, how do you know if you are under arrest? The answer is simple: ask if you’re free to leave. If they lack reasonable grounds to detain you further, you will be allowed to go. If they try to stall you, or stop you, tell them you do not want to speak with them further, and you are done answering their questions. If they still will not let you leave, tell them you want your lawyer. It is a guarantee that, if they intend to charge you, then they will announce your arrest at that time. It is then that an officer will read you the warnings and try to convince you that it is in your best interest to cooperate with them. You will not be able to talk your way out of an arrest. After all, they possess information that they think makes you guilty, and they will ask you questions to try and get your confession, not your exoneration.

Will Your Criminal or Traffic Case Be Dismissed?

Let us suppose that you have been arrested for an offense, and the officers did not, at any time, give you the Miranda warnings. This failure will not, in and of itself, result in the dismissal of the charges against you. Instead, the court will suppress the statements you have made and bar them from use as evidence in the prosecution’s Case in Chief. If you testify at trial to anything materially different from your statement, the State may use your statement to impeach your credibility, as a prior inconsistent statement under the rules of evidence.

Of course, if the State cannot meet their burden of proof without your statement in their Case in Chief, you should prevail without having to testify in the first place. Now let us suppose you made no statements before or after your arrest, and the State is not attempting to enter any into evidence against you. In that case, it does not matter that they did not read the warnings, and the case can be prosecuted without restriction based upon the other evidence they may have in their possession. An example of this might be a case where the police have video evidence of you committing the crime, fingerprint evidence, or eyewitness testimony. In this situation, the prosecution may not need evidence that you confessed to meet their burden of proof.

Involuntary Statements and Miranda

Often, the police will read the Miranda warnings to a suspect, and then proceed to questioning. The suspect then does not provide answers that line up with their information, and they suspect whether rightly or wrongly, that the suspect is lying to them or withholding information. Investigators are trained in techniques of interrogation that lead themselves to believe that they are human lie detectors. When they are right, their techniques may lead to a true confession, but when they are wrong they often lead to a false confession. The problem is: lie detector machines are not accurate enough to be admissible in a court of law, yet we allow these human lie detectors to testify to how in their opinion a suspect was lying. Studies have shown that most of us can only guess 50/50, a coin flip, about who is lying and who is not.

So how does an investigator decide who is lying? Facial expressions, eye movements, hand gestures, vocal tones; it is a long list. The problem is that their “cues” do not apply to everybody without exception. Also, a suspect might lie about something for reasons entirely unrelated to the investigation at hand. For example, a person being questioned for his alleged role in a homicide might not tell truthful information about his whereabouts, even if the information turns out to be an alibi. Say that the truth was that he was committing another crime at the time, such as illegal drug possession and underage alcohol consumption, so he might think that he could get in trouble for that. If an investigator hones-in on the lies regarding his movements the night in question, without considering what was being lied about and why, the investigator may go down the path with blinders on and work the suspect into a false confession.

So how do police coerce someone into a false confession? After all they assume, if one is innocent and they know it, why would the person confess to something he knows he did not do? This has always been the million-dollar question in these cases. Police do not have to beat a suspect to force a confession. They can isolate a suspect, lie to him repeatedly about the facts, offer up false outcomes for cooperation and use many other psychological techniques to twist one’s will until the point where they will simply give in, just to make it stop, in the hopes that the truth will later come out in court.

And this is why lawyers in the real world (not TV Land) always tell their clients to remain silent and to demand that their lawyer be present for any questioning and to not engage in discussions with law enforcement authorities.

Let Our Attorneys Advise You

If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, then you need an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer on your side, like the attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. Contact us today at (312) 644-0444 for a free consultation either by phone or in the confidential surroundings of our offices in Arlington Heights or Chicago.

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Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : May 11, 2020